When you think of honey bees you probably think of Winnie the Pooh scooping out huge paws full of gorgeously golden honey (or hunny sorry), and maybe you even think of the pretty photographs on Instagram of those colourful smoothie bowls adorned with tiny pearls of bee pollen. But did you know that these magnificent and fascinating creatures provide us with so much more? Bees also produce and provide us with beeswax, medicinal bee venom, propolis, and royal jelly.
Propolis is a resinous like substance which is made by worker bees who collect the sap and gum of tree bark and buds of various poplar and cone-bearing trees… Propolis is known to have a long history of medicinal use…
I’ve always been a little obsessed with honey bees – I mean what’s not to love about a female dominated colony calling all the shots? But in all seriousness I admire their resourcefulness, their work ethic, and if you don’t thank them for pollination, well… you’re just a little bit mad because we wouldn’t exist without honey bees today. Heck, even whilst I’m writing this article I’m chewing on a luscious lump of cut comb honey (I know how 1980’s) but one of my saving graces every cold and flu season absolutely has to be – propolis.
What is Propolis?
The word propolis translates as ‘pro’ – before and ‘polis’ city – or in other words ‘defense of the city’, with the city being the hive. Propolis is a resinous like substance which is made by worker bees who collect the sap and gum of tree bark and buds of various poplar and cone-bearing trees. These worker bees carry this propolis (sap and gum) back to the hive using their ‘pollen baskets’ and then synthesise wax by secreting it from special glands on their abdomen. This wax is then blended together with a little pollen and the enzyme 13-glicosidase4 contained within their saliva. The modified propolis is passed to other bees within the hive who use it for various purposes such as sticking together panels in the hive and sealing any cracks.
But what is truly fascinating is the fact that bees use propolis as a microbiocidal agent, disinfecting the hive to protect it from certain viruses and bacteria. Propolis literally functions as the immune system of the beehive. Bees also use propolis for embalming anything that might invade the hive due to its adhesive nature, they also use it to cover the carcasses of any intruders that can’t be removed from the hive to avoid decomposition. In fact even the ancient Egyptians even used it for embalming purposes.1, 2, 3
What Does Propolis Contain?
Propolis (in its raw form) is composed of roughly; 50% resinous compounds and balsam, 35% beeswax and fatty acids, 10% aromatic and essential oils, 5% bee pollen, and has a high bioflavonoid concentration giving it strong antioxidant properties that help to protect cells from cell mutations and free radicals. Propolis contains all of the 14 essential macro and microminerals, except for sulphur, that the body requires in order to perform its basic day-to-day biological functions. It also contains the vitamins A (carotene), B1, B2, B3, B7 (biotin), and C and the protein albumin which is the key protein contained within human blood plasma. Albumin helps to regulate fluid and electrolyte balance within the body.3
Propolis is known to have a long history of medicinal use due to its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anesthetic, anticariogenic, antifungal, antiprotozoan, antiviral, and healing properties. But here are just a few of the amazing health benefits of propolis for you to learn about in more detail.
The Many Beneficial Uses of Propolis
Disclaimer: Propolis and other bee byproducts can result in allergic reaction, anaphalytic shock, and death within those allergic to bee byproducts or bee stings. Always consult your doctor before taking any new supplements or natural remedies, especially if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
So without further ado – here’s why everyone should be reaping the amazing health benefits of bee propolis!
Studies have found that propolis can reduce the growth of bacteria/pathogens that cause gingivitis and periodontitis, treat oral candidiasis, and can also limit the build up of dental plaque by inhibiting certain enzymes thus helping to prevent the formation of cavities.5
Due to its anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, and anti-viral properties scientists have found that propolis can be administered in order to regulate the immune system.6, 7 So stave off coughs, colds, flu, sore throats and fatigue with the daily intake of propolis!
How to use: Take 10 drops of a 50%, preferably non-alcohol based, propolis tincture daily – you can add this to a warm drink or just take it directly by dropping it onto the back of your tongue. Alternatively chew a couple of chunks of raw propolis daily.
Skin and Hair
Propolis has been used to treat multiple skin conditions such as cystic acne, eczema, psoriasis but it has also been found to help promote the growth of hair in a study conducted on mice!
How to use: Add a drop or two of propolis tincture to your existing face cream (the whole bottle) or make your own, you can also dilute a drop with a little water and apply directly do the affected area with a cotton pad. Alternatively you can buy from brands such as Egyptian Magic and Shara Shara.
Athletic Performance and Energy Boosting
Propolis has been found to be very effective at boosting energy levels but also at boosting your athletic performance in a rather fascinating way. Propolis contains caffeic acid phenethyl ester (or CAPE) which possesses antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral properties. CAPE was found to regulate body temperature and prevent heat stress, early fatigue, and dehydration. So don’t just take your propolis in the winter – take it in the summer too!9
How to use: Take 10 drops of a 50%, preferably non-alcohol based, propolis tincture daily – you can add this to a warm drink or just take it directly by dropping it onto the back of your tongue. Alternatively chew a couple of chunks of raw propolis daily. This could be beneficial to take 30 minutes to 1 hour before exercising.
Propolis has been found to be an effective treatment for bruises, burns, cuts, rashes, and even sun burn. Due to the amino acid, benzoic acid, flavonoid, phenolic acid, terpene, and vitamin content of propolis wound healing has been found to be accelerate wound healing at different stages of the healing process when applied topically.10
How to use: Apply a drop of propolis tincture direct to the affected area or use a special propolis ointment daily until your wound has healed.
- Stabilising blood sugar.
- Lowering your blood pressure.
- Treating feminine hygiene problems and the herpes virus.
- As an anticarcinogenic for cervical, colon, oral, and prostate cancers.
- Treating allergies.
- As a natural antibiotic.
- Improving bone health.
Have you used propolis before? If so why not share your experience using the comments box below.
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Find a Vitamin or Supplement: PROPOLIS. In WebMD. Retrieved from http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-390-propolis.aspx?activeingredientid=390&activeingredientname=propolis
- Mercola, J.. (November 17, 2009). Propolis Has Enormous Benefits for Your Health. In Mercola.com. Retrieved from http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2009/11/17/this-bee-product-has-enormous-benefits-for-your-health.aspx
- Raeven, S.. (2013.). Propolis: A Gift From Nature. In Mother Earth News. Retrieved from http://beetherapy.org/learn-about-propolis.html
- Ramos, A.F.N., Miranda, J.L.. (2007). Propolis: a review of its anti-inflammatory and healing actions. In Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases, Vol.13, No.4. Retrieved from http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?pid=S1678-91992007000400002&script=sci_arttext
- Więckiewicz, W., Miernik, M., Więckiewicz, M., Morawiec, T.. (2013). Does Propolis Help to Maintain Oral Health?. In Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Vol. 2013. Retrieved from http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/351062/
- Szliszka, E., Kucharska, A. Z., Sokół-Łętowska, A., Mertas, A., Czuba, Z. P., & Król, W.. (2013). Chemical Composition and Anti-Inflammatory Effect of Ethanolic Extract of Brazilian Green Propolis on Activated J774A.1 Macrophages. In Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2013, 976415. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3690241/
- Sforcin, J.M.. (2007). Propolis and the immune system: a review. In Journal of Ethnopharmacology. 2007 Aug 15;113(1):1-14. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17580109
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). How to Take Bee Propolis. In BeePollenBuzz.com. Retrieved from http://www.bee-pollen-buzz.com/how-to-take-bee-propolis.html
- (Anonymous). (2010). Antioxidant in Propolis protect Athletes. In Madu Propolis. Retrieved from http://www.madupropolis.com/antioxidant-in-propolis-protect-athletes/
- Ysseldyk,A.. (2013). Bee Propolis Benefits. In BeePollenBuzz.com. Retrieved from http://www.bee-pollen-buzz.com/bee-propolis-benefits.html
- Ysseldyk,A.. (2013). The Top 10 Health Benefits of Propolis. In BeePollenBuzz.com. Retrieved from http://www.bee-pollen-buzz.com/health-benefits-of-propolis.html
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Propolis – nutritional information and facts. In The Natural Shopper. Retrieved from http://thenaturalshopper.com/resources/ebook-royal-jelly-bee-pollen/ebook/47-propolis.html